Recognizing when a loved one may need assistance can play a huge roll in their quality of life and may make all the difference in the world when it comes to avoiding an emergency situation in the future. Here are a few things to look for when deciding if it is time to seek assistance.
1. The home becomes increasingly messy and basic maintenance goes ignored.
It can be as simple as a sink full of dishes, stacks of unopened mail, an overgrown lawn or peeling paint. Aging can make it increasingly difficult to keep up regular household chores. Memory issues or dementia often contribute to the deferred maintenance and unpaid bills as the individual may not recognize or remember the need to take action. Unsanitary conditions can of course lead to additional health issues and clutter can easily increase the risk of falling.
2. Neglecting self care.
Unkempt hair, body odor, bad breath and long/dirty fingernails are all obvious signs that an individual is not keeping up with their personal hygiene. Unless you are visiting regularly it may be more difficult to notice signs like not eating regularly, weight loss, not changing cloths and skipping medications. Physical limitations, dementia, social isolation and depression are just a few of the underlying factors that may contribute to these issues. Identifying these warning signs and talking with your loved one about their needs or struggles can make a huge difference in their quality of life.
3. Difficulty standing and walking or falling during everyday activities.
Approximately one third of adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall. The medical costs associated with fall related injuries exceeds $31 billion annually and is likely to increase as our population ages. These falls are the number one cause of unintentional injury among the elderly and approximately 10% of these falls result in significant injury leading to health decline, additional falls or admission to a nursing facility. Fear of falling can lead to a lack of confidence and social isolation. These figures sourced from US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
4. Social Isolation.
Most people need a certain amount of social interaction to feel fulfilled in their lives. Many of the factors mentioned above may lead a person to withdraw from others but even those who may be perfectly capable of keeping up with all the normal activities of daily living may suffer from isolation or depression. Warning signs may include rarely leaving the house or withdrawing from social activities they formerly enjoyed.
Recognizing and combating these issues can make all the difference in the quality of life for seniors. How to approach these needs can be as varied and nuanced as the individual themselves. With so many options available it can be difficult to know where to start. We at Lifestage focus on the four pillars of aging; Medical, Legal, financial and social. As with most things having a plan in place before it becomes an emergency will relieve a great deal of stress for everyone involved.
Ty Strahl is the areas leading senior adviser. Her job is to help you navigate the many aspects of aging and to help seniors who are in transition to find the right solutions for their individual needs.